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Life from the back of a moto

CAMBODIA | Saturday, 11 October 2008 | Views [525]

I arrived after a blissfully short flight from Vientianne at Phnom Pehn airport and quickly walked outside to catch a moto into town. I bargained hard and got one for $1. Little did I know that the dollar is king in Cambodian so much so that all ATMs distribute only US dollars and often change is made in dollars if the amounts is big enough. They still use the Cambodian currency called the Reihls just in equal amounts or for small change. The motos ride was pretty awesome I must admit although a bit dangerous. Me on the back of this cross between a moped and motorcycle with two backpacks and my Lonely Planet guidebook open to help guide the driver. We found the guesthouse but not after getting dropped off early and had to walk a bit but I gave the guy $2 because he was nice and not as pushy as others(which is saying a lot).

I had some time to kill that afternoon before leaving for Siem Reap the next morning so I headed off to the Tuol Sleng museum more infamously known as S 21 where many, many inlectuals and ordinary Cambodians where detained and often killed at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. It was a high school before it was used for this so it looks like a school with multiple buildings and much of the property is in disrepair and showing its age. But that does not take away from the horrible and graphic images depicted inside the buildings from pictures of inmates to examples of torture instruments, the place is a bit creepy. Yet the kind of amazing part other then the sheet metal and barbed wire fence you would not know what was happening behind the walls. The school is right in the middle of the city in a regular neighborhood. My guess if you did know what was happening behind the gates you would never say anything. By the end of the Khmer Rouge regime they were so paranoid of getting overthrown they suspected everyone. After that I headed into one of thenight markets for some dinner and managed to kind som friend rice and chicken on a stick. The rice was good, the chicken, not so much. In fact, one of thevendors told me all the chicken is imported from surrounding countries because of bird flu issues, consequently it is more expensive then beef or pork. I caught a showing of the movie The Killing Fields (it is good) at the guesthouse, never seen it before and then off to bed.

I awoke early the next morning to catch the bus to Siem Reap about a six hour journey. We left of course and set off for Siem Reap. The bus was half local half backpacker, and I sat next to a Cambodian fellow. We did not talk much, his english was a little better then my Cambodian, which is to say not much. After a few bathroom breaks we pulled into the "bus station" in Siem Reap only to be overrun with tuk-tuk and moto drivers. As part of our ticket we got a "free" tuk-tuk ride into town. I met this Canadian women at the guesthouse and on she was on the bus so we shared a ride in. THIS STORY IS BROKEN UP BY THE TRIP TO ANGKOR WAT FOR TWO DAYS!

Took the bus back to Phnom Pehn and walked awhile to find a guesthouse I read about in Lonely Planet. I had two days to kill before I could enter Vietnam so I had time to take care of some things. I found the guesthouse and was quickly ushered upstairs to await the cleaning of my room. However, after informing the older woman running the place that I wanted to stay two nights but only paid for one because I wanted to see how the first night went I was ushered quickly back downstairs to the unrenovated, room behind the restaurant. I also asked for laundry to be done, 4 hours later it was still sitting on the reception desk. I went and took it back determined to find another guesthouse for my second night.  I did find another and told them I would be back the next morning, which I was promptly at 8:30am to check in. They were much nicer, took my laundry, charged me less and booked my bus ticket for Saigon(HCMC) for the next morning. After walking around that evening looking for streetside dinner I experienced my first non-offical power outage in the area of my first guesthouse. It lasted for a fewhours and many a generator was fired up. We just had candles which made things kind of quant and somewhat peaceful.

After getting settled I walked to a bike rental place in town in homes of hiring a bicycle to ride out to the Killing Fields(about 12K). They wanted $3 for a bike so turned to my trusted moto source and bargained a guy to $3 for a roundtrip to the Killing FIelds. I was out pretty early and the field area is not very big and has been turned into an outdoor museum of sorts so it does not take long to visit. The mass graves pits are still which even with grass in them are not hard to imagine having a 100 + people in them which most did. Many people who were detained at S 21 and were later killed were executed at this place. It is mostly peaceful now but hard to believe this mass geonicide of over 1 million people took place just over 30 years ago. We rode back to the spot my moto picked me up and after washing the dirt out of my mouth I walked back to the guesthouse.

I had an afternoon to spend in PP so I did internet time, did some food shopping for the bus to Vietnam and walked around the city. All in all PP was an ok city but not unlike many of the other cities I have visited so far. Tomorrow, off to Vietnam for two weeks!

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